How to Fix a Water Heater Pilot That Won’t Stay Lit

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GAS WATER HEATER PILOT OUT by Plumbing Technician Guy

Morning guys, it’s June 17, 2024. Today, I received a call about a water heater pilot that won’t stay lit. The water heater in question is a Bradford White, and fortunately, I have some parts for that model in my truck.

When dealing with a gas water heater pilot, sometimes you can clean the generator, and that might solve the issue. Other times, the problem could be the gas valve or the control board. If you have a spare gas valve, you might want to change the board on it. This type of gas valve has a small green light on it, which can be an indicator of its status.

Initial Inspection

Upon arriving, I greeted the homeowner, Miss Mary, and proceeded to inspect the water heater. The pilot light would ignite but would not stay lit. Miss Mary mentioned that she had been holding down the pilot light button for about 15-20 seconds, but it wasn’t staying lit.

Possible Causes

There could be several reasons why the pilot light won’t stay lit. Sometimes, there’s a screen at the bottom of the water heater that can get dirty and choke out the pilot light due to lack of oxygen. We need to check the vintage and year of the water heater as well.

Attempt to Relight the Pilot

Miss Mary and I decided to try relighting the pilot. I explained that once the pilot is lit, you need to hold down the button for about a minute to heat the generator up. When the green light starts to flash, you can release the button.

After a few attempts, the pilot light stayed on, and the green light was flashing, indicating that it was functioning correctly. We turned it on, and it seemed promising. However, the pilot light went out again shortly after.

Further Troubleshooting

We discussed the age of the water heater. Miss Mary mentioned that they’ve been in the house for 13 years, and the water heater is likely around 15 years old. Typically, the lifespan of a water heater is about 12-13 years. At this point, it might be more cost-effective to replace it rather than invest in repairs.

Final Decision

Given the age of the water heater and its location, I advised Miss Mary to let it run until it starts leaking. Since it’s in an area where water damage wouldn’t be a significant issue, it makes sense to wait. If it were in a place where water damage could occur, like near a wooden floor or carpet, it would be wise to replace it before it causes any problems.

We concluded that it would be best to monitor the water heater and replace it when necessary. In the meantime, we would keep an eye on the pilot light and ensure it stays lit.

Conclusion

In summary, fixing a water heater pilot that won’t stay lit can involve several steps, from cleaning the generator to checking the gas valve and control board. Understanding the age and condition of your water heater can help you make informed decisions about repairs or replacement. Always consider the potential for water damage and weigh the costs of repairs against the benefits of a new unit.

By following these steps, you can ensure your water heater functions correctly and avoid any unexpected issues. If you’re unsure about any part of the process, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional plumber for assistance.

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